Year

2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Australian Institute for Innovative Materials

Abstract

Sometime in the 1790’s an Italian physician by the name of Luigi Alosio Galvani was working with a frog preparation when one of his colleagues touched the sciatic nerve with a statically charged scalpel. The resulting spark caused the frog leg to contract violently, seemingly springing to life. It was this discovery that gave birth to the field of electrophysiology and all subsequent fields which build upon it. Because of this discovery and continued research with “animal electricity” in muscle and neural tissue, Galvani lends his name to the galvanostat, an important device used in electrochemistry to apply constant current despite varying loads.

While various new technologies for stimulating and recording tissues have developed since the time of Galvani, metal electrodes have remained the quintessential tool of neuroscience, with the famous experiment becoming a mainstay in basic scientific education. Metal electrodes are not only research tools but have been expanded into the clinical setting for use in chronic implants. Flexible electrode arrays have allowed for the successful development of commercially available implants, such as the cochlear and retinal implants, that can restore hearing and sight respectively. However, traditional fabrication methods are limited for the soft, flexible, and biocompatible materials which are required to increase the fidelity of these implants. Additionally, the high cost of production has always been an issue for the commercial viability of medical devices. For these reasons, additive manufacturing technologies hold significant promise for a higher degree of custom designed implants on a per patient basis, while reducing costs due to the elimination of the masks and/or etching steps used in current manufacturing techniques.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.